April 16, 2004

I chose Iago as my choice of character to discuss the discrepancy between appearance and truth as the driving factor in how Shakespeare creates characters. Iago is possibly the most heinous villain in Shakespeare. Iago is skillful, untrustworthy, and selfish when plotting his actions. He uses these traits to his advantage by slowly planning his triumph while watching the demise of others. Iago uses Othello’s weakness against him, specifically gullibility and his devotion to Desdemona. It is Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that make him both a powerful and compelling character.

Iago begins his scheming ability when he convinces Roderigo to tell about Othello and Desdemona elopement to Desdemona’s Father, Brabanzio. Iago continues his plot successfully; making fools of others, and makes himself feel satisfied. Except, Roderigo, no one is aware of Iago’s plans. This is because Iago pretends to be an honest man loyal to his superiors. The fact that Othello sees Iago as trustworthy and honest gives the evil within Iago a perfect unsuspecting victim for his schemes. The opportunity to get to Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot refuse. He creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. It is the jealousy and the gullibility of Othello that lead to the downfall of Desdemona and Othello.

Iago’s hostility against Othello is immediately introduced in Act 1, “Despise me if I do not,” which clearly states his hatred for Othello. Othello passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced solider Michael Cassio. Iago feels betrayed because he considers himself more qualified than Cassio to serve as lieutenant. Act II Scene III, Othello arrives, greets his wife, and announces that there will be a celebration for their safe return home from Cyprus. Iago convinces Montano to inform Othello of Cassio’s weakness for alcohol hoping this would provoke Othello to demote Cassio. Iago tells Roderigo that he will start a fight with Cassio. Iago pretends not to offend Cassio when telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved in, but Iago secretly wants the worst to become of Cassio’s situation without seeming responsible. Iago’s plan was a success. Othello strips Cassio of his rank of lieutenant, this gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively follow through with his plan and manipulate Othello.

Act III scene III, is the point in the play where Iago begins to manipulate Othello. Cassio feels that it is necessary to seek the help of Desdemona in order to regain his position if lieutenant and therefore meets with her to discuss the situation. Iago and Othello enter the scene just after Cassio leaves, and Iago try’s to make it look like Cassio left because he does not want to be seen in the presence of Desdemona. When Desdemona leaves, Iago takes the opportunity to strengthen Othello’s views of honesty and trust towards him by saying, “Men should be what they seem; or those that be not, would they might seem none!” This cleverness by Iago works upon Othello’s flaw, gullibility. Othello has a tendency to take everything he sees and everything he is told at face value without questioning the circumstances. Iago wonders why someone would pretend to be something they are not, while in fact that is the exact thing he represents.

Act III, Scene IV, Iago begins to become blunt with Othello by saying, “I speak not yet of proof. Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio. Iago is suggesting that she possibly having relations with Cassio, and continues on as if nothing has happened. This suggestion puts Othello into a sate of such emotional turmoil he feels lost. Also, Desdemona’s suggestion of forgiving Cassio adds to Othello’s almost immediate conviction that his wife is unfaithful.

Iago is ecstatic when Emilia gives him the handkerchief, which he plants in Cassio’s room as evidence of his affair with Desdemona. Iago arranges a conversation with Cassio, which Othello watches and sees as proof that Cassio and Desdemona slept together. Othello demands further proof that his wife is unfaithful, Iago says that he seen Cassio, “wipe his beard” with Desdemona’s handkerchief, which is also the